Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on July 21, 2016.

August 17, 2016

10:00 a.m.

I. Regular Items (Hardships, Transfers and Expansions):

Applicants Nitinkumar Patel & Sarah High
Business Name Lavina, LLC
Trading As Six Pax N More
Address 6622 Belair Road
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Frank Boozer proffered the case on behalf of his client, Mr. Patel. The other licensee, whom Mr. Boozer referred to as the “city resident,” was not present. Boozer told the commissioners that his client’s intention is to run the business the same as it has been run in the past. The applicant reached out to the community association on his own and negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding, which has some basic good neighbor provisions in it regarding cleanliness and contact information. Boozer said he couldn’t think of another client who had reached out to the community association on their own. Mr. Patel owned other alcohol outlet businesses in Chicago. He will run a carryout liquor store, from 9am to midnight, six days per week. He will mostly run the store himself

The commissioners asked about his floor plan, which did not seem to include any bathrooms or office space. The full plan did include those areas, but the copy that the commissioners had received was cut off.

Zoning B-3-1
Neighborhood Rosemont East
Area demographics 0.7% White, 96.6% Black, 0.2% Asian, 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 35.4% households with children under 18; median household income $30,864.90.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 1%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Frank Boozer
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicants Howard Staley & Mary Beth Staley
Business Name HVS Hospitality, LLC
Trading As Quarter House Tavern
Address 801 S. Decker Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request to add outdoor table service.
Hearing notes

Mr. Howard Staley represented himself, without his co-licensee, but he presented a notarized letter from her authorizing him to speak on her behalf. Mr. Staley testified that Quarter House Tavern is a neighborhood tavern, a grandfathered nonconforming use in a residential neighborhood. He would like to add two tables with a maximum of eight seats in the front of his bar to enhance the experience for the neighbors and to provide some visual marketing. The Canton Community Association submitted a letter of support, subject to their standard guidelines for outdoor seating.

Commissioner Moore asked for Mr. Staley’s plan to monitor the outdoor tables. Mr. Staley responded that he will hire additional staff to actively monitor the tables, to ensure that alcohol and food stays within the small area. He further testified that he has invested significant funds in renovating and improving the building, so he is very focused on hygiene and the presentation of the bar, including cleaning sidewalks and the street of trash. He maintains a quiet establishment, with no live music, since he is in a residential neighborhood.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Canton
Area demographics 86% White, 4% Black, 3% Asian; 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 9% households have children under age 18; median household income: $82,130
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? No.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 0%
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Neither of the licensees resides nor is registered to vote in Baltimore City.

Applicant Leonard Clarke
Business Name Stardine, LLC
Trading As Starlite Diner
Address 510 E. Belvedere Avenue
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership, request for outdoor table service.
Hearing notes

Mr. Clarke represented himself in the hearing. Chairman Matricciani began by noting that businesses had struggled in that location for the past fifteen years. Mr. Clarke testified that he plans to open a diner restaurant in the former Shoo-Fly, in the Belvedere Square market area. He submitted copies of his menu. He plans to be open seven days a week, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Specifically, he wants to be open late on Friday and Saturday nights in order to serve late night diners.

Clarke testified about his restaurant business experience. He said that he opened his first venue when he was 21 years old and has been in the restaurant and entertainment business since then. He plans to employ at least forty people at this location.

Ms. Kris Taylor, of the Belvedere Improvement Association, testified that the organization is not in support of the business being able to stay open until 4am, which Mr. Clarke was requesting. She said that her neighbors were concerned that the business would draw people from other nearby bars who have to close at 2am, creating noise and other possible disturbances. The community association had asked Mr. Clarke to reconsider his request to stay open past 2am, and he refused. Ms. Taylor said that nearby Grand Cru closes at 10. Ryan’s Daughter stays open until 2am some nights.

Commissioner Matricciani noted that, at the previous Red Maple hearing, where Mr. Clarke was a licensee until very recently, there were references to problems with the surrounding neighbors. Clarke replied that he was the owner and operator of the Red Maple for fifteen years and was only asked to meet with the community association twice during that time. Any other concerns that people may have had were never brought to his attention. He did have one violation on his record, for serving an underage police cadet, which came with a $500 fine.

In response to Ms. Taylor’s suggestions, Clarke said that he was very opposed to the idea of closing at 2am. He pointed out that other businesses at this location had closed. He also said that the community’s concerns were overblown, because the nearest residence is a football field away. On the other hand, the Red Maple shared a wall with residential properties and did not have a problem with noise. Clarke said that it would be premature to shut down the option of being open late before he had been given a chance. Under further questioning from Commissioner Greenfield, Clarke pointed out that there are other locations that are open late or all night, including Sip and Bite in Canton, Never on Sunday in Mount Vernon. Greenfield responded that those examples were in very different neighborhoods from the Belvedere Square area. Clarke gave the example of another restaurant in Federal Hill, and Greenfield responded, “you’re making my point.”

Ms. Taylor pointed out that the York Road area near Belvedere Square had suffered from some bad licensees, including Gators and Craig’s/Favorites Pub. Since there is relatively little ambient noise along York Road and Northern Parkway in the middle of the night, the sound travels.

Under further questioning, Mr. Clarke insisted that he would not be promoting his business to college students but could be promoting it to people in the hospitality industry, who are getting off of work at other nearby locations that have to close earlier.

At this point, Commissioner Greenfield noted that there was a process issue with this application: Mr. Clarke had not requested to be open during extended hours, so it was not posted properly for that request. In addition, the state legislative district in which this address is located – the 43rd – may not even allow extended hours. Deputy Executive Secretary Tom Akras chimed in that late night hours require a separate application and approvals from city agencies, including the fire department and the department of housing and community development.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Chinquapin Park
Area demographics 69% Black, 23% White; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 29% households have children under age 18; median household income: $44,853; 6% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 1
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved, subject to the normal 2am closure time.
Vote tally 2-0 (Moore abstaining)
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Matricciani voted to approve the application, subject to the normal 2am closure time. He encouraged the applicant to try out the 2am closure, to see how the crowd works out. The Belvedere Square neighborhood is different from the communities closer to downtown.

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

The Alcoholic Beverages Article does not contain a provision that would allow a licensee to sell alcohol after 2 a.m. under a Class B restaurant license. If the licensee wanted to remain open after 2 a.m. but not sell alcohol, he would have to apply to the city’s Finance Department for a Late-Night Commercial Operations license, under Art. 15, section 9-8 of the Baltimore City Code. Under the city code, if the Finance Department receives ten or more written objections, it must deny the application, though the applicant can appeal to the Finance Director. If the Department receives fewer than ten objections, it could still deny the application, if it finds that there is an insufficient security plan or insufficent conditions to protect public health, safety, and welfare. Mr. Clarke’s testimony was not clear about whether he intended to serve alcohol after 2 a.m.

1:00 p.m.

II. Violations:

Licensees Lourdes Cancel & Gerver Contreas
Business Name Union Centro Americana, LLC
Trading As La Isla Taverna
Address 3230 E. Fairmount Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Article 2B § 12-108(d): – Minor in Possession of Alcoholic Beverage – February 5, 2016 – At approximately 11:20 pm, the Baltimore City Police Department and BLLC conducted an investigation into the establishment. Upon entering the establishment, both Baltimore City Police and BLLC inspectors noticed individuals that seemed to be under the age of 21 consuming alcoholic beverages. Two of the individuals were identified by police as minors in possession of alcoholic beverages as each had an alcoholic drink in their hands at the time of observation. The BLLC inspector informed the owner/manager of the Sales to Minor violation.

Violation of Rule 3.02: Cooperation – February 5, 2016 – At approximately 11:20 pm, the Baltimore City Police Department and BLLC conducted an investigation into the establishment. While conducting an investigation into an allegation of minors in possession of alcoholic beverages the owner Mr. Gerver was present and continuously told the Baltimore City Police both that he personally knew Ms. Murillo and Ms. Mendez-Banqas were 21 years of age. The investigation revealed both individuals to be under the age of 21.

Violation of Rule 4.10: False Statement – February 5, 2016 – At approximately 11:20 pm, the Baltimore City Police Department and BLLC conducted an investigation into the establishment. While conducting an investigation into an allegation of minors in possession of alcoholic beverages the owner Mr. Gerver was present and continuously told the Baltimore City Police both that he personally knew Ms. Murillo and Ms. Mendez-Banqas were 21 years of age. The investigation revealed both individuals to be under the age of 21.

Violation of Rule 3.12: General Welfare – February 5, 2016 – At approximately 11:20 pm, the Baltimore City Police Department and BLLC conducted an investigation into the establishment. While conducting an investigation into an allegation of minors in possession of alcoholic beverages inspectors began to ask individuals within the establishment for identification. More than half of the individuals in the establishment did not have their identifications on their person. Due to the inability to determine the age of so many of the patrons in the establishment, the bar was closed.

Hearing notes

Baltimore City Vice Unit Detective Abraham Gatto testified that he entered the bar with approximately 15 officers, agents, and detectives from various agencies as part of a joint inspection and investigation. They were dressed in their tactical gear. When he entered the front door, he saw two young women standing behind a security guard; these women immediately turned around and “skedaddled” toward the back of the bar. Gatto followed the women and spoke to them; one had a Corona in her hand, and the other had a mixed drink. They both gave false dates of birth. After forty-five minutes, the officers were able to identify the two women through fingerprint-scanning software used by the Department of Homeland Security, whose agents were present as part of the investigation. This software will pull up a person’s country of origin, name, and date of birth based on a fingerprint scan, if the person has ever been identified by that agency. During this whole time, the licensee was insisting to the officers that these women were over 21. They both turned out to be 18 years old.

Liquor Board inspector John Chrissomallis corroborated Gatto’s testimony. He elaborated that the licensee insisted to the officers and inspectors that he knew the women personally, that they were close family friends of his, and that he knew that they were both over 21. Chrissomallis said that someone in the bar told him that the bartender told one of the girls to just tell the police that she was over 21. Since most of the people inside the bar did not have valid identification, the police closed the bar for the night.

The licensee then testified that one of the two women had, in the past, showed him her green card as identification, which said that she was over 21. She didn’t have her ID with her the day of the inspection, but he let her drink anyway, because he had already seen her ID on another occasion. The licensee complained that his patrons were afraid of all of the officers that came in the bar.

Chairman Matricciani noted that this licensee has one prior violation for selling alcohol to minors in 2014. He asked how it was possible that most of the patrons did not have any ID. The licensee responded that he knew all the patrons in the bar, and some of them are his relatives. Matricciani said, “I couldn’t tell you the age of half my relatives.” The licensee insisted that he knew all of his customers for years and he knew their ages.

Commissioner Moore agreed that it was strange that a crowded bar’s patrons would not have ID. She asked the licensee about his system to make sure that people who come to his bar are old enough to drink. The licensee responded that his patrons do have to show ID but only the first time that they come.

Mr. Maslan, attorney for the licensee, reiterated that his client runs the establishment to the best of his ability. He has a security system and an employee at the door who is supposed to ask for ID. The chairman asked, if your security system requires a check of ID at the door, but most people inside the bar don’t have ID, what kind of security system is that? Maslan replied, “they speak Spanish; they know each other. He knows his customers.”

Commissioner Moore asked whether there was any cooperation issue, including any interference with the investigation or evidence that he was trying to hide people. Chrissomallis responded that the licensee didn’t impede the investigation, but the agency listed a cooperation charge, because the patrons told the officers that the bartender told them all to say they’re over 21.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Patterson Park
Area demographics BNIA did not have demographic information for this neighborhood.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? N/A
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident N/A
Attorney for licensee Mr. Gary Maslan
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible for two charges: minor in possession of alcoholic beverage, general welfare rule. Not responsible for noncooperation or false statement charges. $1,500 fine, 2 day suspension.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

The licensee has had previous violations for the same rule, and he does not seem to have adequate security in place.

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Licensees Cuneyt Ozturk & Sudhir Trivedi
Business Name Ozturk, Inc.
Trading As Bosphorous
Address 5716 York Road
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 3.02: Cooperation – March 5, 2016 – At approximately 12:56 am, the Baltimore City Police Department, Baltimore Fire Department, Baltimore Housing Department, and BLLC (“officials”) conducted an investigation into the establishment. Upon attempting to perform a routine business check at the establishment, officials were refused entry as both the front and rear doors were locked from the interior even though patrons were observed inside the location. Officials were also explicitly denied entry by both the owner/licensee of the establishment – Mr. Ozturk – who left the location upon being requested by officials to gain entry and by an individual, later identified as Ms. Ozturk’s girlfriend, who was inside the establishment, but refused to grant entry to officials. Upon finally gaining entry to the location after numerous attempts, officials informed Mr. Ozturk, who returned to the location, of the violation.

Violation of Rule 3.12: General Welfare – March 5, 2016 – At approximately 12:56 am, the Baltimore City Police Department, Baltimore Fire Department, Baltimore Housing Department, and BLLC (“officials”) conducted an investigation into the establishment. Upon attempting to perform a routine business check at the establishment, officials were refused entry to the establishment as both the front and rear doors were locked from the interior, thereby denying patrons the ability to exit the location in the case of an emergency. Upon gaining entry, officials informed Mr. Ozturk of the violation.

Violation of Article 2B § 12-108(d): Minor in Possession of Alcoholic Beverage March 5, 2016 – At approximately 12:56 am, the Baltimore City Police Department, Baltimore Fire Department, Baltimore Housing Department, and BLLC (“officials”) conducted an investigation into the establishment. Upon gaining entry to the establishment, officials observed numerous individuals with partially consumed alcoholic beverages in their possession. Officials then began to ask for the identifications of the individuals in the establishment. Officials were able to identify three (3) individuals under the age of 21, who had partially consumed alcoholic beverages in their possession. Mr. Ozturk was advised of the violation.

Hearing notes

Liquor Board Inspector John Chrissomallis testified that he visited the establishment during a joint investigation with other city agencies. When the inspectors and police officers arrived, they could hear music coming from inside the bar, and they saw around twenty-five people inside. Detective Gatto began to knock on the front door, but no one opened the door. They saw the licensee, Mr. Ozturk, walking around the building from the back; Detective Greenhill asked Ozturk to open the door for them. Ozturk responded that the bar was closed, and he walked away from the officers and inspectors, talking on his cell phone. The task force members then walked around to the rear of the property to see if that door was unlocked, but it was also locked. At this point, the officers and inspectors began to worry for the safety of the patrons inside the premises. An employee came to the back door, and they told her to unlock it. She refused and walked away. When Detective Gatto began pounding on the door, she returned and let them in. The officers then identified all of the patrons, about 10-12 of whom had alcoholic beverages, and allowed those over 21 to leave. The licensee, Mr. Ozturk, returned during the investigation. The fire department found numerous violations and told the licensee that he could not reopen until he made repairs to fix the violations. There were three people under 21 inside the bar.

The fire department inspector then testified about the violations that he found. The establishment was allowing hookah using coals, which is not currently permitted. There were unsafe conditions in the kitchen. He cited the operator for the two locked doors, for failure to heed a lawful order, and for noncooperation.

The city zoning enforcement inspector testified that he had cited the establishment for indoor smoking and having an illegal hookah lounge. He corroborated Chrissomallis’s testimony that the inspectors were concerned for the safety of the patrons inside and were considering forcing open the doors when the employee finally complied.

Baltimore City Vice Unit Detective Abraham Gatto testified that he was very surprised at this incident. He has a good relationship with this licensee, who has been cooperative in the past. He identified every patron in the bar, and three of them were under 21. There were alcoholic drinks on the table where the underage people were sitting, but Gatto could not testify that the individuals had been drinking from those cups.

The licensee then testified that the kitchen was not preparing food at the time and that there were eleven people inside, not twenty-five. He always checks IDs, since he had a problem with serving minors two or three years ago. He said that the people who were inside the establishment were about to leave and “they were there to help me out.” Ozturk said that the doors were locked, because York Road is dangerous. There are shootings, and people get drunk in the parking lot. He said that the underage people inside were not drinking.

Commissioner Greenfield asked the licensee why it could have taken 35 minutes to enter the premises and why he walked away from the inspectors and officers. Ozturk responded that he did not know that they had been outside so long, and he was walking to his car to get the key for them to let them in. He did not know who they were.

Commissioner Moore asked whether Mr. Ozturk understood that, if there had been an emergency, people could have been trapped inside. He replied that he did.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Rosebank
Area demographics 69% Black, 23% White; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 29% households have children under age 18; median household income: $44,853; 6.3% of households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? N/A
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident N/A
Attorney for licensee Yes.
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 4
Result of hearing Responsible for violations. $1,250 fine.
Vote tally Unanimous.
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Matricciani said that the best spin on the situation was that there was a terrible lack of communication. The licensee testified that he needed a minute to get a key, but the officers said that the licensee was blowing them off and being arrogant and not cooperative. He suggested a $500 fine, because the licensee had already been penalized by the fire department.

Commissioner Moore was astounded by the lack of personal responsibility and was frightened that the individuals inside could have been harmed by the dangerous situation. She was concerned by the contempt that the licensee showed to the inspectors and officers. She said that she would prefer a higher fine of $2,000.

Commissioner Greenfield agreed with his fellow commissioners and suggested a $1,250 fine.

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Licensee Eduardo Reyes
Business Name None provided in docket
Trading As El Rancho Blanco
Address 100 S. Fagley Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 3.08(a): Sanitation and Safety – February 5, 2016 – At approximately 11:00 PM, the Baltimore City Police Department and BLLC (“officials”) conducted a joint investigation at the establishment. Upon arrival, officials observed that customers within the location were using Hookah smoking devices in violation of the Baltimore City Housing Code. Also, officials observed that there were exposed wires and a missing electrical box; both of which were also Baltimore City Housing Code violations. At that time, the bar manager/operator was informed of the violations by officials.

Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski admitted the violation on behalf of his client. Kodenski proffered that, when his client’s business was re-inspected afterwards, there was no evidence of hookah.

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Baltimore Highlands
Area demographics 77% White, 12% Black, 5% Asian; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 18% households have children under age 18; median household income: $54,278
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? None provided in docket
Location of entity’s principal office None provided in docket
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? N/A
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident N/A
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None

Disclaimer: While the author makes every effort to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information on this blog, the accuracy of some information is subject to change and cannot be guaranteed. Neither the author nor the publisher is responsible for any errors or omissions. All information in this blog is provided “as-is,” with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy, timeliness, or of the results obtained from the use of this information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied. This blog is not intended to do harm to, defame, libel, or malign any religious or ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or government entity. In no event will the author, her employer, or the publisher be liable to you or anyone else for any action taken in reliance on the information in this blog or for any consequential, special or similar damages incurred, even if advised of the possibility of such damages.

The materials contained on this website have been prepared by Community Law Center, Inc. for informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

Copyright: Text, photos and other materials found on this website are the property of Community Law Center, Inc., except where otherwise noted. Such materials may not be reproduced without Community Law Center, Inc.’s written prior consent.


Previous Posts From:
Booze News

Booze News Categories